Noise Dysregulation and Running Regulation

Saturday evening started out rough for me.

Our neighbors had a party and we could hear their music in our house. And I know that people are allowed to have parties. And even though I think that after you reach a certain age, you are supposed to have parties where the music only lives inside your own house, I know that people have parties with loud music.

Unfortunately, music seeping into my house from the outside is one of my biggest sensory nightmares. It completely dysregulates me. I have to wear headphones with my own music blasting, but I still can’t do much that is functional. I get agitated and stressed and a rock drops into my chest and I have to escape.

It’s pretty horrible, honestly.

Fortunately, on Saturday, I had someplace to go.

I had signed up for an 8K race that started at 8:45 at night. I was an early arrival thanks to my fleeing the house, but at least I had plenty of time to decompress.

The bummer of the whole thing, however, is that I had absolutely no desire to run five miles, especially after my rough early evening. Adding to that is the fact that running has been really tough for me lately. There are a lot of reasons for that, chief among them being that I barely ran at all in May and June because of everything that was going on in my life. In addition, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it is damn hot out there. And humid. And generally horrible.

Saturday night was cool and dry though. And two of my running friends who were running the race also met me at there. They are super fun to be with and by 8:45, I was relaxed again.

Sadly, I still didn’t want to run five miles.

Happily, I didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter, as I was lined up in the race corral wearing a number and my running shoes, plus my friends probably would have been confused if I’d just sat on the ground instead of moving forward.

So move forward I did.

Step step step step/breath. Step step step step/breath.

I started to run and with each quartet of steps and each breath, I felt better. My body loosened and relaxed and I settled in for the next hour of steps and breathing. Because when you really look at it, that’s all running is—steps and breathing.

As it turns out, everything I needed after getting away from my house that night was steps and breathing.

I returned to my house late Saturday night, happy, tired, and (thank god) to a neighbor who had turned off his music.

Mile Zero, Smile Eight Million

I’m determined to write a post about Alex and my trip to Key West (Mile 0 of US Highway 1, as every trinket for sale in the area points out), even as day after day passes and our vacation gets further away. We went there to celebrate our 15th anniversary, even though said anniversary was at the end of May, otherwise known as the Moving Freakout Era.

My mom came into town to watch our kids for us. I suggested that she take notes on how her week with the munchkins went so I could make it a post, but she didn’t do that so instead of a hilarious post about what it’s like to take care of Team Stimey Junior, this post about enjoying five days away from Team Stimey Junior will have to do.

If you are on Facebook and you are so inclined, you can see my annotated photo album of pictures from our trip on my Stimeyland page. Please don’t judge me if you see repeats of jokes from this post over there. I only have so much humor in me.

Alex and I flew into Ft. Lauderdale on a Monday morning. We had a long day driving south from there and all the way out to the keys, a drive made longer by a traffic jam caused by a car accident on literally the only road in or out of the area. We didn’t get to our hotel and settled in until nearly dinnertime, so we eagerly jumped in a hotel shuttle to the downtown area to find a restaurant.

Before dinner, however, there was something I had to do. I needed to try to fit in with all the other tourist ladies by immediately purchasing a large sun hat.

Photo of me wearing large sunglasses and a big green sunhat.

It seemed the thing to do.

I was pretty sure I was supposed to buy a hat, but I was worried that I would buy the wrong hat. I told Alex that I shouldn’t just buy the first hat I saw. But then I saw this hat and I like that color green and it cost a mere twelve dollars and I was all, “How can you go wrong with a twelve-dollar hat?”

It turns out that twelve-dollar hats will rapidly start to disintegrate and shed parts and you really can go wrong with a twelve-dollar hat, but it served its purpose in that it kept the sun off of my face and I was able to talk to Alex ad nauseum about my hat, so I guess in the final tally, I didn’t really go wrong.

Our trip rapidly turned into punctuating our long, leisurely meals with sightseeing and wandering up and down Duval Street. We set the tone with our first night dinner at nine one 5, a very delicious and fun restaurant that we sort of randomly picked. Alex ordered some sort of snapper dish and the waiter told him that the snappers were small that day, so he’d get two instead of just one. We, naturally, imagined two small fish on a plate.

Oh. Not so.

Photo of two giant fish on a plate along with Chester, my stuffed mouse.

Chester is there for scale.

The best thing though is that not only did I laugh uproariously when Alex’s giant dinner arrived, but an adjacent table of four men also laughed hysterically at Alex, causing Alex to protest that, “No! I swear! I didn’t order two giant fish! The waiter brought them! It wasn’t me!”

Maybe you had to be there, but when strangers join you in mercilessly mocking your husband, it totally makes your night. At least it made mine. It was great.

It was even better when Chester got drunk and wore one of the fishes as a hat.

Chester with one of the fish heads resting on top of his head.

Chester is so embarrassing.

We then boarded the shuttle back to the hotel just as the young people were arriving in town to party for the night. Alex and I both slept eleven hours that night. I don’t think that has happened for…ever.

Tuesday was our heavy sightseeing day. We started by going to the Hemingway House, where Ernest Hemingway lived in the 1930s. Obviously we went because Hemingway was an amazing writer and it was very cool to visit his home, learn about him, and see where he wrote his most famous books.

Two photos: one is me standing in front of a small building surrounded by people; the second is the interior of the building. A room with a table, chairs, and typewriter at the center. There is a taxidermied gazelle head mounted on the wall and various other decorations.

Here is me standing in front of Hemingway’s writing studio, followed by a photo of the studio itself. That must be why I haven’t written the great American novel yet—not enough dead animals on my walls.

Let’s be honest here though. The real reason we went to the Hemingway House is because of the cats. Evidently Hemingway was big into cats, specifically polydactyl (more toes than normal) cats. He kept a bunch of them in the ’30s and they still have a whole lot of them (48!) there now.

There were cats everywhere. There was a cat on Hemingway’s bed. There was a cat in Hemingway’s studio. There was even a cat hanging out in the ladies bathroom, which I presume was never Hemingway’s.

A brown, orange, and white cat sitting on a brick pathway surrounded by greenery.

Cats like this one. Hello, cat.

Fortunately, I do have a lot of cats, so maybe that great book is in me somewhere. We made a point of telling our tour guide that we used to have a polydactyl cat, as did every other person on the property who had ever owned, petted, or heard of a many-toed feline.

The tour guide was unimpressed with our cat story.

We wandered around some more and did more touristy things. We saw a lighthouse, so naturally we paid $10 each to climb to the top. Because why wouldn’t we pay good American money to climb 88 tiny, metal, spiral steps in billion-degree heat and humidity? At least the view was pretty.

We rewarded ourselves with more food, drinks, and Chester shenanigans.

Four photos: Chester sitting on a drink served in a pineapple, with paper umbreallas and chunks of pineapples sticking out of it; Chester sitting with a shrimp tail on each hand; Chester drinking a margarita out of a straw, Chester on his back near a margarita.

There is nothing more absurd than Chester on a bender.

We had such a lovely day. Probably every half hour or so, Alex or I would say, “Wow! We could never do this if our kids were here!” We missed the hell out of our munchkins, but seriously, we would have walked five feet in the heat and Quinn would have fallen to the ground in agony, Jack would have taken off after one of the wild chickens, and Sam would have tried to micromanage his brothers until a fist fight broke out in the streets.

We could have had a great trip with our kids, but, damn, it would have been different. We never get to just walk around and wander in and out of shops and attractions. We left the hotel that morning with no set plan. I cannot remember the last time we did that. It was so fun.

We ended our evening at a restaurant called Better Than Sex that only featured dessert, each dish served with a double entendre. It was hilarious and fun for us, especially when a mom, dad, and their two kids came in and read the menu. “Look, white and sticky,” the mom read off the drinks menu as the dad shot her a look. Alex and I ate our Jungle Fever and Cookie Nookie and giggled.

Alex and I had spent a lot of time on Tuesday debating whether we should go on a snorkeling boat trip. Our pros list included items such as, I bet it would be fun! and Fish are cool! and We might feel like bad tourists if we don’t at least touch the water! Our cons list mostly included one item: Goddamn, going snorkeling sure does seem like a lot of work.

It turns out that going snorkeling mostly involved putting on a swimsuit and paying $39 each to get a boat ticket, so that is what we did on Wednesday.

First though, we had to eat a lot of food, wander through a bunch of shops, and visit the Key West aquarium where I took this awesome photo.

Photo of Alex looking into an iguana enclosure with his hands hooked into the wires. There is an iguana to his left looking out of the enclosure with his feet hooked into the wire. Their poses mirror each other.

The greatest thing is that even though Alex is totally mirroring the iguana to his left, he didn’t even see that guy until I pointed him out.

We were going on an afternoon snorkel trip, so we headed out at about 3:30 on a boat headed to a reef.

Selfie of Alex and me. I'm wearing my hat.

Who is that rocking the awesome sun hat?

In case you haven’t figured this out about me yet, I like to take photos. So, after we had checked in for our boat ride, I took a special interest in the disposable waterproof cameras at the shop next door. The only problem was that they used, ugh, you know, actual film, which involves something like thirty steps to actually develop, look at, and share, leading me to believe that I would never actually successfully utilize those photos. Thinking this way led me to shift my gaze six inches to the left where the shop was selling $20 waterproof cases for iPhones.

What could be the harm in putting an extremely expensive piece of electronic equipment in an untested plastic bag and tossing it into the ocean?

No harm! I decided.

Happily, not only did the case work perfectly, but it helped me capture such important and flattering memories such as this one:

Selfie of Alex and I wearing our snorkel masks and breathing thingies. Alex's eyes are closed and my forehead is wrinkled and I look extremely concerned.

YOU try to take a selfie while floating in the ocean with a tube in your mouth and a sheet of plastic over your face, why don’t you?

Happily, my very first test shot captured something better. I don’t even think I was aiming the camera when I took this one.

Photo of the boat silhouetted against the sky. The sun is centered exactly behind the mast of the boat.

It almost looks intentionally framed.

We spent about 45 minutes in the water looking at fish and swimming around the reef. I saw some sort of ray (stingray? manta ray? bat ray? who knows?), which was very cool. Alex swallowed some seawater, making him barf a little, and then he got to watch all the little yellow fish who came swarming up to eat it.

What? We are Team Stimey. Do you think no one threw up on this trip?

Our boat ride back coincided with both the sunset and a storm rolling in. Even the boat crew was impressed by the sky.

Photo of the sunset behind boats floating on the water. The setting sun is at the left of the photo with a big cloud bank piling up on the right.

If I actually knew how to take sunset photos, this one would have been amazing.

On Thursday, we were driving north out of the keys so we could visit the Everglades on Friday before we got on our plane home, but before we drove off-island, we tooled around a part of Key West we hadn’t explored before, including the southernmost point on the continental United States.

Alex and I standing on opposite sides of a large marker declaring us at the southernmost point in the continental United States. The ocean is behind us. Cuba is 90 miles away.

We also went to the southernmost gift shop. Where I bought a toothpick holder.

We visited a wildlife refuge, waded in the water a little bit, walked through the Key West AIDS Memorial, and checked out a botanical garden housed in an old Civil War fort.

We found the wildlife refuge because I was attracted by a cluster of wild chickens in a parking lot. Did I mention the wild chickens? There are wild chickens walking all over Key West. It is charming as hell. I kind of wish there were chickens everywhere. Although the cluster of chickens in the wildlife refuge parking lot were actually gathered around the corpse of one of their own. That is, I suppose, the downside of wild chicken herds.

Also seen at the wildlife refuge:

A bird stands outside an open door. There is a chalkboard on the door  that says, "Please knock. If you need help call xxx-xxx-xxxx."

Seems like kind of a dick move to ask the bird to call for help when he doesn’t even have a dialing finger.

It rained on and off Thursday morning, which was good timing for us. Not only were we not doing anything that required clear skies, but the rain turned the ocean all kinds of amazing colors.

Photo of a palm tree in front of the ocean, striped with different colors of blues, browns, and greens.

We won’t discuss the smell of the ocean and sea grass and what not.

On our way out of the keys, we stopped at a state park to eat the Cuban sandwiches we’d bought for lunch. Because we were there, we decided to take a swim in water that turned out to be SO nice and SO warm that we never wanted to leave.

Another selfie of Alex and Jean, this time in the ocean.

This is a photo of happy.

Friday morning we were scheduled for a trip to the Everglades before heading back to Ft. Lauderdale to catch our flight home. I had been to the Everglades briefly in 1998 and had always wanted to go back. We took a fan boat tour, learned a little bit about alligators, and saw some local wildlife (turtles! fish! alligators! dragonflies!). I still want to go back and see some more.

Photo of the Everglades. There is water with the sky mirrored in it separated by grass and a hummock with trees on it.

If you wonder why I still want to go back, just look at this photo.

There is something about the Everglades that I just really think is super appealing. Also, I got to hold a baby alligator named Snappy, and that was pretty cool.

Me holding a small alligator in my hands.

I was expressly instructed not to kiss the alligator, which was fortunate, as once he was in my hands, all I wanted to do was kiss him and snuggle him.

In the van on the way to our tour, we saw an alligator in a canal by the side of the road. It was upside down and kind of puffy looking. “It’s sunning itself!” said our tour guide.

I don’t think it was sunning itself.

We had woken up at the ungodly hour of seven-something (Can you imagine? Before 8? Waking up with an alarm clock?) to go on our Everglades tour, so naturally we requested a late checkout and took a nap before we checked out of our hotel and went the airport.

We had such a wonderful time. I think my mom is lucky we came home at all. Although, frankly, we did miss our kids. Our trip was the perfect amount and type of time away.

When Alex had originally suggested this trip, I did what I always do when someone suggests I leave my house, be it for an evening out or an extended trip away from home and responsibility: I internally panicked and then started listing reasons why it would be impossible to make it happen.

I’m so glad that this time I listened to Alex and to other people who were encouraging about my going. When we originally made the plans, we weren’t planning on buying a house. When we got on the plane, we had moved and were mere days away from putting our old house on the market. If ever there were a vacation where my lists of reasons I couldn’t leave home were valid, it was this one.

But we went. And it was so necessary. Having five days with no responsibilities was exactly what both Alex and I needed after all the stress we’d endured for the prior two months. Thanks to my mom for watching my kids in such a spectacular fashion and thanks to Alex for forcing me out of my comfort zone into a wonderful week that was sorely needed.

I’m a lucky girl.

Photo of Alex and Jean on their snorkel boat in front of the sunset.

Happy 15th anniversary, Alex! I love you!

Time Keeps on Slippin’

I’m sorry, but did I just look up and notice that it is JULY EIGHTH? Because I don’t know how that happened. See, summer was supposed to have just started and suddenly it’s almost mid-July. This is surprising because I think today was the first day of summer that I have had more than three uninterrupted hours in a row to just be.

Obviously I used said uninterrupted hours to unpack boxes, but still, they were there.

This summer has been really busy and exhausting. It seems as if every time I think I have an afternoon free, some new responsibility that has to be taken care of right away arises.

At the end of every week, I have told myself, “Next week. Next week is the week things calm down and normalize.” I think I might finally have been right.

I’ve managed to start running again. My daily to-do lists are manageable. My new house is largely unpacked. My old house is rapidly becoming not my responsibility. My kids and I are finding our groove with camp and job and volunteering and babysitters.

We have even found time to play in sprinklers in our backyard.

Photo of all three of my kids in swimsuits in a grassy backyard with a sprinkler running near them.Bring it on, summer. I think we’re finally ready.

Coming Home and the Presentation of Souvenirs

It’s funny, because usually when I’m on vacation, I find time to post here. I think that’s because I am always back in a hotel room by 8:30 to put my kiddos to bed and then I have to sit in the dark with nothing but my computer to entertain me as they go to sleep. It turns out that if you go on vacation without your kids, you can do things like stay out until midnight and then go to bed as soon as you get back to the hotel.

In related news, did you know that there is still a midnight?

In more related news, yes, I am aware of how lame I am for being impressed that I was out and about with the living people after eleven in the pm.

Also related, Jesus Christ, I am so glad I don’t go to bars late at night. Just walking past them was enough for me.

Anywho, Alex and I have returned from our five-day trip to Key West. In case you want a reminder of exactly how pathetic we are, that was our first trip without our kids since before Sam was born. In other words, about 13 years.

Don’t worry though. Much as we may have considered it, we didn’t just abandon Team Stimey Junior to Minecraft and their own devices. My mother came into town to take care of them. She didn’t let on, but she was suitably apprehensive. After all, as an old friend of hers said, “DON’T YOU READ HER BLOG?!”

She shouldn’t have worried. They got along swimmingly.

Photo of my three kids sitting on the couch with my mom. Jack is slightly blurry. All are smiling and look very happy.

I’m not sure that Jack ever stops moving long enough to be completely not blurry.

Although let’s be honest. I think we all know that my kids didn’t sit around compliantly all week. My mom definitely worked hard.

A photo of my kids and mom in the same spot as before, but this time their limbs are thrown about and they are laughing and wild.

Yes. That looks right.

I can’t wait to tell you guys about our trip because it was awesome. We had so much fun. I took seven million great photos. We laughed and snorkeled and drank out of pineapples.

But tonight I am preparing to go back to work tomorrow and it is also Jack’s first day of camp and my mom left this afternoon, so I am going to hold off on telling you about all of that and instead, I will sit here by my cat and regale you with stories about our alcohol-fueled metal sculpture souvenir-buying extravaganza.

I think my mom was nervous when I called her to get her mailing address because it wasn’t in my phone and then texted her a photo of the souvenir I’d purchased for myself.

Photo of a metal, multi-colored rat. He is about a foot tall and oh so very garish.

I call him Hemingway. He is so fucking awesome. And, yes, I was also baffled that no one else had already bought him. Weirdly, the shopkeeper seemed thrilled to sell him, offering us a deep discount.

“Yours is more dignified,” I told my mom via text.

Also, it was a pelican.

Photo of a metal pelican standing on a metal post. He's probably three feet tall and a rusty bronze color.

I would name him Rusty, but who knows what my mom will call him.

I’m pretty sure she’s going to place him right inside her front door so it’s the first thing visitors to her home see. She used an appropriate amount of enthusiasm when I eventually showed her a photo, so I think she likes it.

In other news, I have a metal sculpture-buying tip for you: As you put more and more giant metal statuary on the shop counter, discounts will get increasingly larger and the salesperson’s face will get increasingly happier. You might then choose to buy one sculpture for each of your children instead of one for the three of them to share.

Whereas for my mom, we were looking for something a reasonable adult would put in a home, we had no such criterion for our children.

Photo of a round-bodied monster on tall, thin legs. Its predominant features are it's buggy eyes and giant teeth. He's also carrying a hockey stick.

That’s why we got this hockey-playing monster who tried to eat Chester for Jack.

Jack’s most excellent response upon seeing this guy was, “LOL. He’s like me.”

He then took him to his room to find a spot for him. Jack reported back that “he’s trying to eat my bedroom.”

Photo of the monster with several of Jack's toys in its mouth.

Jack. That kid totally gets Alex and me.

Sam got the cat version of my rat. Said cat is pretty hilarious.

Photo of a multi-colored metal cat.

Honestly, his was probably the most dignified non-pelican that we purchased.

You’ve probably already guessed that we got Quinn a cat as well, but you may not have guessed that we got him a Slinky Cat. He’s hilarious.

Photo of a metal cat. His body is a long metal spring.

Slinky Cat has the benefit of being poseable. He can sit or stand. (He chooses to stand.)

Clearly, Alex and I are pretty delighted with our souvenir purchases. Fortunately, our recipients seem to be equally enamored.

I hope you all enjoy them as well. Thank you for indulging me. You may now carry on with the non-metal sculpture related parts of your life.

This Is Likely to End With the Adoption of 800 New Stimey Cats

In the county in which my kids go to school, each child must perform 75 SSL (student service learning) hours before they graduate from high school. Students start earning their hours once they enter middle school, so Sam started this past year and Jack will begin this coming year.

Because of this, I am always looking for fun and approved volunteer jobs for my kiddos. Up until now, these jobs have been mostly one-shot events that I’ve run across. For example, Sam has helped with a school event or we picked up trash for a local organization. However, I’ve been looking for recurring jobs because that just seems easier than always keeping my eyes open for something my kiddos can help with.

Recently, we found a Saturday chess camp at which Sam can volunteer, which is great, but the real coup, the be-all-end-all of SSL volunteer opportunities came when a friend of ours recommended my family for a weekly job, starting this month.

The timing was terrible. We trained right during our move and our first week was this week, when my mom was in town and we had 7000 other things to do. It was one more thing that my family could barely handle, but we did it.

Do you wanna know why?

Do you wanna know what our four-hours-a-week-Wednesday-afternoon volunteer job is?

Here’s a hint:

Close up photo of a young black cat behind the bars of a cage.

It’s blurry because it was one of seven million photos that my kids took in rapid succession.

Yes. It is cat related.

Yes. It is a job that was practically tailor made for Team Stimey.

We are working for a local cat rescue organization that put cats up for adoption at a pet store. My kids are in heaven.

We clean the cages and keep everything in our little room all ship shape and…wait for it…we play with the cats. Sam and Jack get to earn their SSL hours by playing with cats. It’s the greatest gig ever. Especially considering that I help them clean the cages.

Photo of Sam snuggling with a very small, 9-week-old black and white kitten.

Can you tell how hard he’s working?

I actually think I got the rawest end of the deal. I’m hoping to take only two of my kids at a time, so as not to overwhelm the cats, so this week I just took Sam and Jack. One of them would help me clean a cage and the other would play with the cat who occupied that cage. Then they would trade for the next cage.

Sadly, I never got to rotate out to the cat-playing position to watch them clean a cage together.

Fortunately, after we cleaned the cages, I got to snuggle some cats too. But still. Kinda unfair, right? I’m hoping to train them well enough so that eventually I’ll just sit and pet cats as I watch my kids scrub litter boxes.

I figure we’ll get to that point in five, maybe six…years.

Still, even though I did a bunch of the work, both Sam and Jack did great. After about an hour, Jack asked for a break, so I let him play iPad for a while. He still earned his hours though because he was simultaneously working hard taking care of the cats.

Jack sitting in a folding chair, playing an iPad with one hand. The other hand is petting a cat who is sitting in the chair next to him.

Did I mention that this is the best gig ever?

The hazard to this job, however, is that my kids want to adopt every cat in the place. They filled up my phone with photos and videos of the cats that were there this week and I have already gotten my fair share of, “Please mom! I really want to adopt him!”

Team Stimey Junior doesn’t seem to understand, “But we have a really good cat ecosystem right now and we don’t want to upset the balance,” so I’ve had to resort to shouting, “No! NO! I said we’re not adopting any more cats! NOOOOOO!”

So far no one has cried. Not even me.

We all feel pretty happy about the whole deal. But, for the love of god, let’s stop throwing these perfect opportunities my way, okay? My calendar is filling up.

Let’s Talk About the Avalon Bay Portable Ice Maker (AB-ICE26)

Sharp left turn: Now it’s time for a product review! Fine print: I was given a free Avalon ice maker for review purposes. My thoughts here are my own.

The last time Alex and I lived without an ice maker built into our refrigerator, it almost ended in divorce, what with all the finger pointing and the blaming and the recriminations about who used all the ice and who left the ice cube tray empty and HOW DAMN HARD IS IT TO PUT WATER IN A SERIES OF LITTLE PLASTIC SQUARES ANYWAY?!

Because I’m still reliving the trauma of that situation, I was worried when I discovered that the house we were moving into had no ice maker in the fridge.

I know. The horror.

But then, out of nowhere, I got an email from the good people at Avalon Bay. They had a product called the Avalon Bay Portable Ice Maker (SKU=AB-ICE26) and they wanted to offer one to me for review. Weird, right? I mean, how did they know?

Photo of a red ice maker.

It comes in other colors, but I like the red.

Now, you don’t see me doing a lot of reviews around here because it’s not really my thing. But every once in a while, something comes along that I am really curious about and would like to try out. This was one of them. I signed right up and shortly thereafter, my brand new ice maker showed up at my door.

HOW IT WORKS:

You don’t need a water line connected to the ice maker. All you have to do is plug it in and fill it with a couple liters of clean water. The machine swings into action and produces ice cubes in less than 13 minutes. It continues to make and collect ice cubes in a little ice tray at the top of the machine until said ice tray is full. Because it isn’t refrigerated, the unused ice melts back into the water reservoir and is remade into new ice so there is always fresh ice in the ice tray.

THE GOOD:

It makes ice without my having to fill little plastic trays with water.

It’s fast. It really does make ice in just a matter of minutes. The ice cubes are hollow, which is how it gets made so fast. Also, I think there is some sort of magic going on down there in the machine. It doesn’t make a lot of ice, even when the ice tray is full, but it makes it fast enough that that doesn’t really matter. My family has been using it for three or more weeks now and we’ve never run out of ice.

You just saved so much space in your freezer! No more ice cube trays!

You can choose between two sizes of ice so if you want to fit the ice in a water bottle or something, it will fit.

Photo of two ice cubes in a hand. They are both hollow and sort of bullet shaped. One is larger than the other.

My family has mostly used the large cubes.

The ice is fun to eat because of its texture and hollowness. It’s good. And it crunches in a fun way.

THE BAD:

The ice maker is kinda pricey. It costs $149.95. If I’d had to pay for it, I would have had to think long and hard about it. That said, it’s cheaper than buying a fridge specifically because of its ice making abilities.

It’s also big. If your counter space is at a premium, it might be tough to find a place for the ice maker. I have it tucked into a corner in my kitchen and it doesn’t feel obtrusive, but it could be.

Photo of the ice maker next to a pineapple.

Pineapple for scale.

It is loud. I would say this is the ice maker’s biggest drawback. Because the ice melts and reforms, it runs almost all the time. It doesn’t run when the ice tray is full, but it runs a lot. I’m not sure what to compare it to, but I would say that maybe it sounds like a coffee maker that is running most of the time. It’s white noise, but if running appliances bother you, this one might.

FINAL OPINION:

We complain about how loud it is, but we use the thing all the time. I like not having to worry about refilling ice trays. I don’t even have to fill the water reservoir very often. It had never even occurred to me to get a portable ice maker, but I am very happy that I have one now.

Also, still no ice tray-related divorce.

Where’s Chester?

Here’s Chester!

Photo of a metal monkey with Chester, my small brown stuffed mouse, sitting on top of him as if riding him like a horse.

This monkey is prominently placed in front of our new home. It’s like a sign post that says, “We’re whimsical!” or “These people are ridiculous; avoid them!”

We’re settling into our new house and loving it so very much. I mean, it’s not awesome that the air conditioner broke a week after we moved in and even though it is covered by our home warranty, that still doesn’t make the part get ordered any faster and it’s 80 million degrees in my bedroom right now and has been for the past five days, because OF COURSE THAT HAPPENED A WEEK AFTER WE MOVED IN.

But anywho.

I’m still unpacking, but I’ve prepared the house enough to introduce you all to the new location of Stimeyland. Naturally, it is way more fun to introduce you with a game involving Chester, the toy mouse.

Remember Waldo? Just as you used to try to find a drawing of Waldo in a much larger scene, you will try to find Chester in larger photos of some of the rooms in my new house. Unfortunately, it was not until this very moment that it occurred to me that I should have dressed him in a red and white striped shirt and hat.

Dammit. Opportunity missed.

We’ll start with an easy one. Here is the front of my house. Where’s Chester?

Photo of my front door taken from down some of the steps leading to the door. Chester is sitting on the brick ledge in front of the door.

As with all the photos in this post, you can click to embiggen for easier searching.

Oh, look! There he is!

Close up of Chester on the brick ledge.

I made a mistake and didn’t take this photo from the same vantage point as the bigger one. I’m sorry. I did better with the others.

That one was too easy, but you get the point, right? Okay, let’s play!

Here is the back yard of my house. We brought our bedraggled hammock all the way from our old house. Because we are klassy that way.

Photo of a hammock in a back yard. You can see the back of a house with grass and trees in front of it.

Where’s Chester?

Here’s Chester!

Close up of Chester on the hammock with his head on the hammock pillow.

The thing that makes this hammock even classier is that the hammock pillow there? It’s actually a seat cushion I tied to the hammock. Put that shit on Pinterest.

One fun thing about our new house is that it comes with its very own train. Beyond our back fence is a ravine with tracks at the bottom. Alex has had one question for anyone who will listen: “What’s the hobo situation?”

Photo of trees at the edge of a ravine, at the bottom of which you can see some train tracks.

I can see one tiny hobo in the photo. Can you?

Also, again I’m disappointed in myself for not making him a little stick with a kercheif packet at the end of it.

Close up of Chester on a tree trunk

Wouldn’t he look jauntier if he had a bindle?

In addition to a gate that gives us access to the tracks (and hobos), we have a Chester-sized hole so he has easy access as well. It’s like this house was built for us.

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Hopefully he won’t take off as soon as he finds the right sized stick.

I love our new living room. Please ignore the toys strewn all over the floor.

Photo of a living room with wood-looking floors, chairs, and couches. There is a blanket on the couch and some bookshelves.

Please, however, don’t ignore the awesome piggy bank, which is one of my favorite things in my house.

Ever since we moved, I haven’t had a good chance to nap, which is one of my favorite activities.

Close up of Chester with his head on a couch pillow and covered by a blue tardis blanket.

Chester, however, has not had a similar problem.

We haven’t had a formal dining room…ever, so we don’t have a lot of stuff to put in that room.

Photo of a dining room with a table in the middle of it and not much else. There is a vase of flowers on the table and a cat investigating said flowers.

That’s Ruby enjoying the flowers a wonderful friend brought to me.

Chester was pretty easy to spot, wasn’t he?

Close up of Chester sitting on the table near the vase and a piece of paper written on in crayon. There is a cat sitting over him sniffing the flowers.

There he is, sitting under the cat, reading a note my friend Kate‘s daughter left at our house.

Every house needs a kitchen, or so I hear.

Photo of a kitchen. It's shaped like the letter "u" and has some stuff on the counters.

We mostly use it as a repository for snacks and a place to cut fruit.

If you need a hint about where Chester is, just remember that our AC is broken and it was 99 degrees today.

Photo of a red portable ice maker with Chester's head sticking out of the top.

He’s in our new portable ice maker. (I’m reviewing the ice maker. Stay tuned for that this week.) I wish *I* could fit in an ice maker.

Maybe my favorite room in the whole house is our family room. We splurged on a new couch for this room. I love it so much. So do my kids, who have enjoyed the time I’ve spent unpacking because that means I let them play Xbox all day.

Photo of a room with a fireplace and a big brown couch. There are a couple of kids on the couch.

If you look closely, you can see a couple of the munchkins gorging on screen time in the couch.

You can also see someone else gorging on screentime.

Close up of Chester on the couch, sitting next to an Xbox controller.

He’s a big fan of Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare.

“But where are the gerbils, Stimey?” you ask.

That was a tough one. I wanted them somewhere that they would be near people a lot, but Alex didn’t want them in our family room because when they chew their cardboard, they’re pretty loud and make it hard to hear the TV.

Therefore, they went to live in the office.

Photo of my desk near a sun-filled window. Behind the chair are both gerbil tanks.

I cannot even tell you how nice it is to have my chair right next to that big ol’ window. The gerbils are nice too.

I like that the gerbils are so low so visiting children, cats, and other friends can stop by and say hi.

Close up of Chester on top of a gerbil tank. One of the gerbils is stretched up to sniff at him.

Chester and Jefferie took some time during our photo session to get acquainted.

Chester’s not in the next photo, but Starfire made a pretty good case for being a new Stimeyland cover photo with this next pose:

Photo of Starfire behind a sign that says "STIMEYLAND" in fancy lettering. There is a bamboo plant next to her.

She is also making a good case for why we don’t have live plants. That bamboo plant used to have shoots coming out the top before Starfy and her buddies waged war on it.

The biggest reason we moved to a new house was so all of our kids could have their own rooms. This one belongs to Quinn:

Photo of a room with a twin bed, green rug, hanging blue striped chair, and white shelves.

Quinn is so delighted with this room. It took close to a week before he let either of his brothers cross the threshold.

Chester on the other hand, well, he can come and go as he pleases.

Close up of Chester in the blue striped chair.

Chester can use some therapy swinging, just like Q-ball.

When we bought the house, Jack’s room was painted in bright yellow and pink vertical stripes. Take a moment to visualize that. Then look at how beautiful it is now.

Photo of a room with blue walls, a twin bed, a gray rug, a LEGO table, and a dresser with some stuff on it.

Some day we’ll put blinds on that window, but today is not that day.

I haven’t unpacked all of Jack’s things yet, but even so, he has managed to create delightful little scenes all over his shelves.

Close up of  a stack, from bottom to top: a Minecraft chest, Minecraft dirt block, Minecraft TNT, Minecraft grass block, Minecraft Steve, and then Chester on top.

He’s a daredevil, that Chester.

We haven’t put anything on any of the walls, with the exception of where there are already nails. Sam was lucky enough to have one of those spots in his room.

Photo of a room with a double bed, a colorful rug, a window with curtains, and a dreamcatcher and little yarn purse hanging on a nail over the bed.

That window treatment was there when we moved in. Sam loves it. Awesome. One less thing to buy.

I’m not sure how Sam can make a mess of his room when we haven’t unpacked everything and he has, like, three belongings in there. It’s almost like someone else has been sneaking in and using the room in his absence.

Photo of Chester under the covers with a small stuffed blue bear.

Gasp! Scandal!

Alex and my room hasn’t been fully unpacked yet. The movers put a lot of boxes up there that don’t belong up there, so I’m currently sorting through them to figure out where they actually go.

Chester is tough to find in this photo, but see if you can spot all three cats.

Photo of part of a master bedroom littered with boxes—and three cats.

This room is huge. That is the corner of our bed in the bottom left. I love it so much. You can’t really tell in this photo, but it is really bright up there.

Oh, right. The cats. Ruby is up in the left window. Starfire is on the floor to the left of one of the boxes and Oreo is walking into the room from the right.

Chester is in the box of packing paper.

Close up of Oreo partially buried in a cardboard box full of packing paper.

Wait. That’s not Chester.

There’s Chester in the box of packing paper!

Close up of Chester in a cardboard box of packing paper.

Whereas Oreo hopped in the box herself and settled in for the duration, I think Chester was more concerned about being recycled.

Also, this photo of Ruby is super pretty, so I’m posting it as well.

Photo of Ruby sitting in a window. She is looking out at the trees beyond.

This house has lots of window sills for the cats. I think they like it here.

We also have a basement. I haven’t unpacked a damn thing down there. We have, however, made use of the Foosball table the previous owners left for us.

Photo of a basement room full of boxes and empty shelves. In the foreground is a wooden Foosball table.

It is apparently a “left handed Foosball table.” I have no idea what that means.

In the spirit of the World Cup, here is a closeup of the table—and its friendly and vigilant goalkeeper.

Close up of Chester standing in the Foosball table, directly in front of the goal.

I don’t think he knows how close he is to being knocked down into the bowels of the Foosball table. One fast moving ball is all it would take.

So there it is—a tour of much of my new house. I hoped you enjoyed it as much as Chester did. I love this house so much. I mean, once you get past that it is hot as hell inside. It is so beautiful and spacious and I feel so lucky to live in it.

One of these days—I’m guessing 2017 or so—I will be all done unpacking and I’ll get to actually relax in the house. That’s going to be a good year.

Until then, I will just keep enjoying the fiasco that is a partially unpacked house and the chaos that comes with it. Although actually, I might be sad when I’m done unpacking because the cats are enjoying the process so much and I am truly enjoying watching them enjoy it.

Another photo of Oreo in the cardbord box of packing paper.

Like this. I mean, really. Can you beat this?